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Employment Law - Damage to vehicles


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A friend of mine has recently been in an accident at work where a vehicle was damaged.

 

He was reversing on a building site and a large piece of wood was sticking out of a skip which he reversed into and caused damage to the vehicle.

 

In his contract it states "Where damage to a company vehicle is incurred as a result of your negligence, you will be liable for the total cost of repair to the vehicle".

 

My argument is twofold

 

1) Firstly, if the person in question writes off his vehicle will he be forced to pay for the whole cost of the vehicle?? surely this is impractical!!?

 

2) Can this man be held responsible for the damage, surely the negligence is on the part of the health and safety officer on the site (for allowing the skip to be unsafely loaded) and not the driver of the vehicle?#

 

And also, is this an acceptable addition to a contract of employment? it also goes on to say that an employee should pay the insurance excess on any claim and any increase in premium will be dedcucted from the employees wages?

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OK - this is only my opinion so make sure you refer to the bottom line of my signature.

 

1. No - he would be asked to pay the insurance Excess if his negligence were proven, not the entire cost of the replacement vehicle. (As long as they claim on their insurance for the accident - which I believe they must do but I'm not sure. They would certainly have to NOTIFY their insurance of the incident).

 

2. He can only be held responsible if his negligence is PROVEN. If they withhold the money from his wages he would be able to raise an action to have it repaid on the basis that he does not believe he was negligent. However he would have to have a pretty compelling argument. (See below)

 

I don't know about deducting increased insurance premiums from his wages; I don't believe that would be a fair term. They are within their rights however to require him to pay the Excess of any claim in which he was deemed negligent.

 

When reversing a large vehicle, it is standard practice to have a spotter to watch you back and to ensure you are clear of obstacles. Did he have a spotter? If not, was he instructed by anyone to proceed without one? It's his responsibility to ensure that he is safe to perform any manouvres he intends to make. Did he at least look behind the vehicle prior to reversing to ensure it was safe? He may well be able to prove that the site supervisor was negligent in incorrectly loading the skip; however I don't think that unless he covered EVERY ANGLE of his responsibility beforehand that he would be able to disprove his own part in the negligent behaviour which caused the accident.

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I wanna know how fast he was driving and how big the plank of wood was, which resulted in the vehicle being written off?

Also, he should have been covered under the companies insurance?

Good Luck to your friend.

:DABBEY-WON! £1,359.34

:confused:CAPITAL ONE WON £1,523.27+£39court fees.

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OK - this is only my opinion so make sure you refer to the bottom line of my signature.

 

1. No - he would be asked to pay the insurance Excess if his negligence were proven, not the entire cost of the replacement vehicle. (As long as they claim on their insurance for the accident - which I believe they must do but I'm not sure. They would certainly have to NOTIFY their insurance of the incident).

 

2. He can only be held responsible if his negligence is PROVEN. If they withhold the money from his wages he would be able to raise an action to have it repaid on the basis that he does not believe he was negligent. However he would have to have a pretty compelling argument. (See below)

 

I don't know about deducting increased insurance premiums from his wages; I don't believe that would be a fair term. They are within their rights however to require him to pay the Excess of any claim in which he was deemed negligent.

 

When reversing a large vehicle, it is standard practice to have a spotter to watch you back and to ensure you are clear of obstacles. Did he have a spotter? If not, was he instructed by anyone to proceed without one? It's his responsibility to ensure that he is safe to perform any manouvres he intends to make. Did he at least look behind the vehicle prior to reversing to ensure it was safe? He may well be able to prove that the site supervisor was negligent in incorrectly loading the skip; however I don't think that unless he covered EVERY ANGLE of his responsibility beforehand that he would be able to disprove his own part in the negligent behaviour which caused the accident.

 

I agree with the above, but i think this quote is the clincher If he had looked he would have spoted the wood surely.

I drive vehicles for a public body (shall we say) and part of the training when reversing is to get someone to watch you back up and to make sure it is clear.

What if someone was actually putting something in the skip at the time, they presumably would have hit them as well.

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I wanna know how fast he was driving and how big the plank of wood was, which resulted in the vehicle being written off?

Also, he should have been covered under the companies insurance?

Good Luck to your friend.

 

No I was just using the written off thing as an example. There was £150 worth of damage to the vehicle. Im aware of the use of a spotter and I will speak to him later to see if this is enforced on the site he was on.

 

The other thing I'm thinking is that the campany say "where damage to a company vehicle is incurred as a result of your negligence". But who decides whether or not this is so, surely an accident investigator should decide negligence and not mere managers as they are not experts in the field of this? Couldnt a joint negligence be argued here?

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No I was just using the written off thing as an example. There was £150 worth of damage to the vehicle. Im aware of the use of a spotter and I will speak to him later to see if this is enforced on the site he was on.

 

The other thing I'm thinking is that the campany say "where damage to a company vehicle is incurred as a result of your negligence". But who decides whether or not this is so, surely an accident investigator should decide negligence and not mere managers as they are not experts in the field of this? Couldnt a joint negligence be argued here?

 

It's not about spotters being "enforced" at this site. It's the DRIVER'S responsibility to ensure the safety of any manouevres he intends to make. If that means he needs a spotter then it is for HIM to arrange. If noone is available then you take the next safest option - such as climbing out of the vehicle and surveying the scene prior to the manouevre.

 

Negligence will be decided by (a) The insurance company if they claim (which as I said they MAY BE obliged to do) or (b) the Company. If the company decide negligence then he will have a far better chance of fighting it than if the insurance company decide negligence. But in EITHER CASE his case will need to be pretty strong to prove he was not negligent in reversing into an obstacle - whether the obstacle was negligently placed or not.

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Ok this is providing me with some help. You say they MAY be obliged to do it but any idea where I could confirm this?

 

No I don't I'm afraid; I've no idea whether they're obliged to submit a claim or not - but you would think that having forked out for insurance they've got to look at the risk of an insurance claim (excess, increased premiums) against the risk of bankrupting one of their employees with a claim against him which will likely never get paid without expensive legal action. They're FAR more likely to ask him to pay the Excess only - assuming of course that the Excess is less than £150... if not then they're probably within their rights (if he's proved negligent) to ask for the full whack.

 

The problem he's got is ALWAYS going to be proving that he wasn't negligent; proving that he took all reasonable precautions prior to reversing his truck. As we all know only too well, the driver usually surveys the place he's reversing into as he swings the vehicle around in front of it - then starts backing up, and does it quite quickly. If he stopped, asked for (and got) a spotter, or asked and none was available and walked to the rear and surveyed the scene, then reversed extremely slowly... or if the obstacle was placed while he was reversing... well then he might have a case.

 

My personal view is that he should wait and see what they do. They will likely want to interview him and ascertain exactly what happened so that they have a statement to submit to the insurance - that's the chance he's got.

 

On thinking about it they will not be able to ask him to pay their increased premiums because the insurance company will not tell them what part of the premium increase is due to that particular claim; and some of it is certain to be the annual premium hike that all insurance companies levy. If he is required to pay these however he will likely have to go to court to recover them.

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More To The Point Did The Skip Have Warning Markers On It,i Would Check With Health And Safety First As I'm Sure It Should Have Them Being On Site On Not For Personal Use,also Was There Anything Tied To The End Of The Wood To Warn Other People As You Say It Was Hanging Out Of The Skip

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More To The Point Did The Skip Have Warning Markers On It,i Would Check With Health And Safety First As I'm Sure It Should Have Them Being On Site On Not For Personal Use,also Was There Anything Tied To The End Of The Wood To Warn Other People As You Say It Was Hanging Out Of The Skip

Some good points there.

The thing is...if it was a works vehicle and he was using it for work then I would say that the works insurance pays.

Your mate needs a professional if they insit he pays for it.

I'm wondering if this fella is a right clown at work and this may not be the first time he's caused damage to the companies property. Any normal company would use their insurance for this type of accident?

:DABBEY-WON! £1,359.34

:confused:CAPITAL ONE WON £1,523.27+£39court fees.

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OK - this is only my opinion so make sure you refer to the bottom line of my signature.

 

1. No - he would be asked to pay the insurance Excess if his negligence were proven, not the entire cost of the replacement vehicle. (As long as they claim on their insurance for the accident - which I believe they must do but I'm not sure. They would certainly have to NOTIFY their insurance of the incident).

 

2. He can only be held responsible if his negligence is PROVEN. If they withhold the money from his wages he would be able to raise an action to have it repaid on the basis that he does not believe he was negligent. However he would have to have a pretty compelling argument. (See below)

 

I don't know about deducting increased insurance premiums from his wages; I don't believe that would be a fair term. They are within their rights however to require him to pay the Excess of any claim in which he was deemed negligent.

 

When reversing a large vehicle, it is standard practice to have a spotter to watch you back and to ensure you are clear of obstacles. Did he have a spotter? If not, was he instructed by anyone to proceed without one? It's his responsibility to ensure that he is safe to perform any manouvres he intends to make. Did he at least look behind the vehicle prior to reversing to ensure it was safe? He may well be able to prove that the site supervisor was negligent in incorrectly loading the skip; however I don't think that unless he covered EVERY ANGLE of his responsibility beforehand that he would be able to disprove his own part in the negligent behaviour which caused the accident.

 

Whilst I agree with most of what has been said already, especially with regard to the use of a "banksman/reverser", I would like to comment on the issues regarding the Contract of Employment and the "charging-back" of incident costs to the employee.

 

I drive large vehicles for a living and, whilst ths is always done "on road", we are not permitted to carry out a reversing manoeuvre without suitable assistance and this is especially so when in a relatively confined space such as a depot or yard area. It is recognised that it is the driver's responsibility to ensure the necessary assistance is available.

 

For most of the last forty years I have driven company owned and insured cars and never once in that time have I had a clause in my Contract of Employment under which my employer could make a "charge-back" for any incident I may have been involved in. However, I do believe that such clauses are not that un-common today.

 

It may be worth reminding your friend that his employer would have to be on very firm ground to make any deduction from his wages in respect of this (or any other) incident lest he (the employer) fell foul of regulations concerning an "unlawful deduction from wages".

Jimbo 44 - always happy to help, but always willing to learn from being corrected too!!! Whilst any advice given may be based upon personal experience, please always be sure you seek guidance from a professional in the particular field.

 

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark, but a large group of professionals built the Titanic.

 

A 'click' on the scales is always appreciated if I have helped. Many Thanks!

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